Plk1 phosphorylation of Numb leads to impaired DNA damage response

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Although Numb is well-recognized as a cell-fate determinant in stem/progenitor cells, accumulating evidence supports that Numb also has a critical role in adult tissues and cancers, in particular, in the context of regulation of tumor suppressor p53. Herein, we identified Numb as a novel substrate of Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1). Of significance, we showed that Plk1-mediated phosphorylation of Numb leads to its enhanced proteasomal degradation and impaired Numb/p53 pathway, thus providing another mechanism how Plk1 antagonizes p53 during DNA damage response. In addition, the novel phosphorylation event identified by us further supports the notion that post-translational modifications of Numb uncouple Numb from p53 and lead to p53 destabilization. Finally, our data generated from both human cancer cell lines and mouse xenograft model showed that cancer cells carrying the unphosphorylated form of Numb by Plk1 are more sensitive to doxorubicin, a classical chemotherapeutic drug. Therefore, our work may provide future strategies for improving the efficacy of chemotherapy by targeting Numb phosphorylation by Plk1.

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